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Tension Flares Between Pres. Lee, Ruling Party Bigwig

Posted February. 12, 2010 08:24,   


Tension is escalating in a war of words between President Lee Myung-bak and former ruling Grand National Party leader Park Geun-hye.

When President Lee visited the North Chungcheong provincial office Tuesday, he said, “The best family stops fighting when a burglar breaks into its house and kicks the burglar out, then starts fighting again.”

In response, Park said Wednesday, “What if one family member changes his or her mind and turns into a burglar?”

Park’s implication that the president’s “burglar” comment was directed at her has angered the presidential office, which has demanded a formal apology from her.

Senior presidential secretary for public relations Lee Dong-kwan told reporters yesterday morning, “It is inappropriate and puzzling that without grasping the context, she disparaged the president, who has been working hard for state affairs every second, and then said it was just a general comment.”

“We believe Park’s comment needs an appropriate explanation and follow-up measures, and we demand this.”

When asked whether he meant an apology among the measures, Secretary Lee said, “If she’s done something wrong, she has to apologize.”

This is the first time for the presidential office to openly criticize Park since President Lee’s inauguration. With tension between the two sides mounting, it is hard to predict how the row over the Sejong City project will be resolved.

On the allegation that Park implied that President Lee is the burglar, lawmaker Lee Jung-hyun, her de facto spokesman, said, “This was only a general comment. She didn’t name a specific person.”

Secretary Lee called the incident a mistake and said, “(Park) should at least show courtesy toward the president.”

“Many media reported that the presidential office looked embarrassed and tried to calm the situation after Park’s comment, but shouldn’t the person who made a logical comment calm the situation? We didn’t make the comment so why should we calm this down?”

On the lack of communication between the presidential office and Park, Secretary Lee said, “Communication is possible when the other party is willing to talk. How can we talk at a time when she doesn’t want to change a single thing (related to Sejong City) and even shuns discussing a change to the party line?”

In response to the presidential office’s demand for an apology, Park’s spokesman quoted her as saying, “If what I said poses a problem, then they should deal with it as is.”

The spokesman added, “The presidential office said President Lee’s comparison of a burglar was not aimed at Park. Park also said she didn’t mean specific people, including the president. Did we do something requiring an apology?”

To this, Secretary Lee said, “We said this with much thought and reason, but we express regret over the emotional response.”

yongari@donga.com surono@donga.com